This super nourishing soup of turkey meatballs and kale braised in lemony garlic broth is full of flavour and makes for a great comfort dish that is still very healthy. You get the benefits of antioxidant-packed kale, chicken broth and protein-rich turkey or chicken meat, plus all those beautiful notes of citrus and garlic. I made this dish for my Paleo reset program and it’s become a crowd-favourite, so I am sharing it on the blog as well. It’s paleo, gluten-free, Whole30 and keto-friendly.
I love making this soup when I feel like something nourishing and warm. It’s great for when you’re feeling under the weather or coming down with a cold as it’s full of nutrients, Vitamin C and healing broth. In my true style, I made sure it’s also packed with flavour and in this case you get lots of umami, citrus and garlic.
How To Make Braised Turkey Meatballs & Kale Soup
There are two parts to making this lovely turkey meatball soup dish.
First, you make the meatballs and you can use ground turkey, chicken or pork. Fish can also be ground up into mince and will work well in this recipe. The meatballs are partially pan-fried before you add them to the soup.
The soup base is very easy to make and I used a few spices, citrus and garlic to give it a lot of flavour. The addition of fish sauce gives the broth saltiness and that lovely umami flavour but you can always use a little extra salt instead.
I used kale but any leafy greens with work. You might like to add some collard greens or Chinese greens like bok choy or broccoli, Swiss chard etc. To be honest, you can add as many different veggies as you like. Add starchy roots earlier so they can cook and leafy, fibrous ones towards the end. I often use kale in soups, like this chicken tortilla one.
This soup has a few starchy vegetables, so if you’re following a low-carb or keto diet, replace the carrots and potatoes with zucchini and/or broccoli. You might want to keep some carrots. You can also use a little less leek. White potatoes can be swapped for sweet potatoes or parsnips.
You can make the meatballs ahead of time. You can pan-fry them or keep them raw in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze them for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before using as per recipe instructions. I also love keeping some homemade chicken broth in the freezer or fridge but you can also use store-bought broth.
Pre-chopping the kale and leeks and peeling garlic will also save you some time. You can store those in an airtight container in or Ziploc bags in the fridge for 2-3 days before using. Use the potatoes when needed, though.
For the meatballs
- ½ leek pale part only, roughly cut (or 2 spring onions)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley about 10 grams, roughly chopped
- A few mint leaves if available
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves only (or 2 teaspoons dry thyme)
- 1 large garlic clove minced or dice
- Zest of 1 lime or lemon
- 1.2 lbs. ground turkey mince, chicken can also be used (600 g)
- 1 teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil for cooking
For the soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ leek green and pale part
- 5 peels lemon
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced
- 1 large white potato or 1 parsnip, peeled and diced into small cubes
- 3 cloves of garlic sliced
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
- 2 star anise pods
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- A good pinch of black pepper or chilli flakes
- 10-12 kale leaves torn off the stem and cut into smaller pieces (about 5 cups loosely packed)
- Juice of ½ lime
- Juice of ½ small lemon about 2 tablespoons
- If you have a food processor, place leek, parsley, mint, thyme, garlic and lime zest inside with an S-blade attached. Blitz a few times, until the ingredients are finely ground up. Alternatively, chop everything very finely using a knife. Transfer to a large mixing bowl together with the turkey or chicken mince, salt and pepper. Mix really well, until well incorporated.
- Heat coconut or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Roll the mixture into small meatballs; about 25 g / 1 oz. each, smaller than a ping pong ball. Fry the meatballs for 7-8 minutes, turning them throughout so they turn golden brown on all sides.
- In the meantime, add the olive oil, the other part of the leek, lemon peels, carrot and potatoes to a medium saucepan. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, star anise, chicken stock and fish sauce. Season with some salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and cook over medium heat, covered, for 3-4 minutes.
- Prepare the kale and add to the soup, stir through and cook for a further 5 minutes, covered. Test the potato and once soft, remove from the heat and add the lime and lemon juice. Stir and taste for salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes off the heat before serving.
- Meat: Turkey, chicken or pork mince can be used in this recipe. Even fish would work really well with the flavours of the soup. If you can’t find ground-up chicken or turkey mince, get some thighs (skin and bone off) and grind it up using a food processor.
- Herbs: Other herbs like sage and oregano can be used instead of thyme; coriander and basil would work well instead of parsley.
- AIP: Omit the chilli and use parsnip or sweet potato instead of white potato.
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